By: Vrinda Devani, MD
See more photos from our Advocacy Days here.
Washington D.C. has always been a place that draws me. It is a place of action, compromise, debate, activism. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of this year’s Advocacy Days with 2020 Mom. I would like to take a moment to share three aspects of the few days in D.C. that were most impactful and memorable to me.
Above all, meeting families that have been deeply impacted by maternal mental health was by far the most touching aspect of Advocacy Days. I met a couple who lost their daughter and grandson to postpartum depression. The family from The Emily Effect, who lost their sister or daughter to postpartum anxiety was an incredible example of using a devastating and heartbreaking event to mobilize action. There were countless others. Over and over again, I saw how important the work we are doing truly is. While it will be impossible to prevent all losses and poor outcomes from maternal mental health, there is so much more we ought to be doing. So many of these families should not have suffered the way they had. I was honored to hear their stories, and so grateful that they came to the Capitol to share their stories with legislators.
Meetings with our senators and representatives was both eye-opening and inspiring. These men and women have quite a job at hand. I can only imagine that they have many groups and causes walk in through their door daily, pleading that they take a more earnest look at their cause. And this is exactly why it is so important to take the time to meet the representatives or their staff individually. Many may not have even batted their eye at maternal mental health if they did not hear our stories and our thoughts. A personal visit shows that this issue is truly important—important enough for me to get on a plane and fly half way across the country. And that speaks volumes. While they still may or may not vote for our cause, I believe we planted a seed. Who knows what that seed will sprout to next.
Lastly, I loved partnering with other causes at the Capitol, and seeing how our causes had many overlapping aspects. 2020 Mom co-hosted this year’s advocacy days with March for Moms, who held their second annual rally on the capitol mall Sunday afternoon. The rally featured speakers covering death and near-death experiences, and musicians and we all received orange t-shirts to wear during the rally. We also joined March for Moms attendees (doulas, midwives and other activists) during our legislative visits on Tuesday.
Zero to Three, (who focuses on early childhood development and which 2020 Mom is a partner organization), also had their “Strolling Thunder” rally and lobby days on Tuesday. I joined the rally and saw that they too were advocating for things like paid family leave and better maternal care just like we were. By joining forces, we have an even greater way to impact our representatives.
I encourage anyone who has even the slightest inclination or has a story to share to consider making it out to the capital to the next Advocacy Days. We make movement with our voice and our stories, and the more voices and stories there are, the greater the impression we make. Listening to our perspective is, after all, our elected representatives’ jobs. They are there to represent us and what is important to us. But that cannot happen if they do not have the opportunity to know us.